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School Uniform Policy on Safety and Discipline

Debate over outfitting school children into their uniforms started in 1983 in response to the report entitled A Nation at Risk, warning America of its eroding educational foundation marred by the “rising tide of mediocrity”. Then in 1987, four years after the disturbing status of the American educational system was described, Cherry Hill Elementary School in Baltimore, Maryland became the first to implement followed by the Long Beach Unified District in California.

In the case of the Long Beach District, the uniform policy yielded positive outcomes such as decreased school violence and increased attendance which prompted former president Bill Clinton in his State of the Union address in 1996 to endorse the policy in public schools for the curtailment of violence and promotion of discipline. Supporters of the movement argued that the policy has the potential of decreasing rate of student victimization, lowering gang violence, and distinguishing strangers from students within the school premises (Scherer, 1991; Kennedy, 1995; Loesch, 1995; Gursky, 1996 as cited in Brunsma & Rockquemore, 1998).

Academically, school uniforms enhanced student learning and promoted positive attitudes toward school, heightened sense of pride for the institution, high level of student achievement, enhanced school preparedness, and compliance to school ideals (Stover, 1990; Jarchow, 1992; Thomas, 1994; La Pointe, Holloman, & Alleyne, 1992; Workman & Johnson, 1994 as cited in Brunsma & Rockquemore, 1998). On the behavioral aspect, mandatory school uniform policies reduced discipline problems such as suspension, substance abuse, and absenteeism (Gursky, 1996 as cited in Brunsma & Rockquemore, 1998).

Moreover, it was supported by various schools because self-esteem of students was increased and feelings of unity among students were reinforced (Thomas, 1994; La Pointe, Holloman, & Alleyne, 1992 as cited in Brunsma & Rockquemore, 1998). Though the number of advocates to the school uniform movement continues to grow, opponents argued there is mounting evidence that the policy does not deliver the effects as stipulated by those in favor of the school uniform policy. Key findings of longitudinal analyses from kindergarten to tenth grade found empirical evidence to disprove the claims of supporters.

From the paper of Brunsma (2006), it would be gleaned that school uniforms had no impact on school’s climate among eighth grade principals’ perceptions that wearing uniforms compromises school safety. Another close inspection of Brunsma’s synthesis revealed that the policy had no effect on academic performance in the elementary, middle, or high school levels save for its negative impact on reading performance. Moreover, evidence points to the policy’s inefficiency in creating a positive learning milieu. Its impact on school attendance was negligible among the eighth and tenth graders.

Another argument critics have against the policy is its violation of the “students’ First Amendment rights… and go way beyond just having a reasonable dress code that promotes safety and decorum in school” (DeMitchell, 2006 as cited in Yeung, 2009). Safety and discipline will be the main issues to be tackled in the study as an effect of a proposed school uniform policy. Both have become in recent years any institution’s number one thrust amid numerous school-related shootings and gang activities within campus premises.

Being mandated by law to protect faculty and students from harm, schools have adopted a variety of strategies and interventions to ensure a safe learning environment. The success of these most importantly necessitate approval and cooperation from the school administration, members of the academic community, the student body, families of students, and the community. Do the perceptions of middle school students in Southport Middle School lean towards the advocates or the opponents of the school uniform policy?

Are their perceptions influenced by their age, gender, monthly household income, racial background or membership in groups? This will be the principal question to be explored in this proposed study. Purpose of the Study The purpose of this proposed study is to determine whether implementation of the school uniform policy will produce a perception of a safer and more disciplined learning environment for students of Southport Middle School in St. Lucie County. Research Questions This research will delve on the perceptions of middle school students on the effects of the proposed uniform policy in Southport Middle School.

Specifically, it will address the following research questions: 1. What is the profile of the respondents in terms of age, gender, monthly household income, racial background, and membership in groups? 2. How did the respondents perceived the effects of the proposed school uniform policy on safety and discipline? 3. Is there a significant difference in the perceptions of the respondents towards the policy when grouped in accordance to age, gender, monthly household income, racial background, and membership in groups? Hypothesis

The above information indicates that school uniform polices appear to have value. Therefore a research on the views of middle students on the effects of this proposed policy in Southport Middle School warrants scientific attention. The null hypothesis that will be tested at 0. 05 level of significance is stated as follows: Perceptions towards the effects of the proposed policy on safety and discipline are not influenced by age, gender, monthly household income, racial background, and membership in groups. Rationale and Significance of the Study

Numerous published studies on school uniform policy implementation have been successful in meeting some goals or purposes. This study serves as another stepping-stone that will offer insight so that researcher can test the opinions about a policy that may actually be implemented and is of great interest to the concern of the middle school population. A disciplined and safe learning environment should be a priority requirement for a good school, as students who are safe and secure are better students (Donohue 1996 as cited in Uriyo, 2000).

Because of the growing number of violent incidents within school premises, stakeholders composed of instructors, parents, and school administration have considered adopting the uniform policy as a creative strategy to create a conducive learning environment. Nature of the Study In order to provide evidence on the association between variables, this study attempts to establish a statistical relationship between pre-selected demographic factors and perceptions on safety and discipline resulting from the proposed implementation of a school uniform policy.

Implementation of the study will employ a descriptive, quantitative, and cross-sectional research design. It will describe the perceptions of the middle school students on the effects of the proposed school uniform policy on safety and discipline in the campus. Five demographic characteristics will be defined and numerous samples will be drawn from the student population in order to conduct an analysis on the views towards the proposed policy. This study is expected to determine the link between the variables the study will ascertain.

Assumptions and Limitations For this study, it will be assumed that the respondent population will follow a normal distribution and that classes in each demographic factor will be adequately represented. Since a stratified random sampling method will be conducted, the conclusion could be generalized to reflect the overall view of the middle school population in Southport Middle School towards the proposed policy. However, the outcome of this proposed study could not extrapolate on other middle schools in the area or other states.

Another assumption is that the respondents will truthfully answer the items in the questionnaire thereby ensuring a high external validity. One limitation is that the data will be based on the self-report of the respondents based on their perceptions towards the proposed school uniform policy. Only the perceptions of the middle students regarding safety and discipline will be determined and the independent variables will be limited only to age, gender, monthly household income, racial background, and membership in groups.

Therefore views of school administrators, teachers, parents, and community leaders are beyond the scope of this study. Although self-reports obtained from self-administered questionnaires serves its advantage since scoring could be done with relative ease, validity and reliability must first be established. It is also possible that the respondents might merely copy the answers of their seatmates during questionnaire administration thereby introducing bias to the data set.

Another possibility is that some students might not fully understand the items in the questionnaire considering that the respondent pool will be composed of different racial backgrounds whose English facility may not be excellent. To remedy the language barrier, the questionnaire will be translated into their native tongue. To allay any anxiety during test administration, the investigator will emphasize that there are no right or wrong answers. Chapter 2. Literature Review Explained in this section are the theories to which this study will be grounded namely, role theory, developmental theory, and the pygmalion effect.

This is followed by important guidelines in implementing a school uniform policy and very few studies focusing on the perceptions of students on the school uniform policy. Theoretical Framework Before presenting the theoretical background this study will anchor itself on, it is necessary to define perceptions. According to Lindsay and Norman (1977) as cited in Borkowski (2005), it is the process where sensation is interpreted and organized ascribing meaning to the experience. Therefore, a person is bombarded with situations or stimuli then interprets them into something meaningful based on prior experiences.

However, what a person interprets may be entirely different from reality. In the study, the middle school students will be asked to perceive what they think about the effects of the proposed school uniform policy on safety and discipline. The Attribution Theory of Heidler (1958) as cited in Borkowski (2005) stated that individuals’ actions are deeply rooted on their beliefs whether or not these are legitimate. Hindin (2007) explained that in the role theory, individuals occupying a specific social position are expected to behave in a certain way.

The basis of this theory is the observation that individuals behave in a predictable manner and are driven by social context befitting his or her position. Role is being defined as a “social position, behavior associated with a social position, or a typical behavior”. Using the role theory, middle school students would be expected to have a different set of views pertaining to the implementation of the proposed school uniform policy. Because the respondents are between the ages 12 to 18, they are on the process of integrating their roles as children, students, siblings, into self-image in the face of peer pressure.

Garbrecht (2006) emphasized that through self-definition, adolescents integrate values during their childhood, identifications, and perceptions of others towards them. Therefore, middle school students would be assumed to have negative perceptions towards the policy since it infringes on their ability to express themselves in their manner of dressing as espoused by the First Amendment rights. Uriyo (2000) stressed that one of the most concrete expression of individuality is clothing since it encompasses an individual’s value system and provides cues on the values one holds.

It also indicates a person’s status in a social or group setting. For instance, when an adolescent wears a certain type of clothing line or brand, he or she becomes accepted in a group for the reason that he or she has fitted in the norms of the group. Research has consistently shown that non-conformity to a group’s dressing standard poses a barrier to one’s involvement and participation in the group. The results of studies show intense competition among adolescents on the latest trend setting styles in clothing (Bellezzo, 1991; Sanchez, 1991; Stern, 1990 as cited in Uriyo, 2000).

In an attempt to meet these standards, many adolescents resort to compromising and illegal behaviors such as shoplifting, selling drugs, and violence (Richardson, 1991; Sanchez, 1991 as cited in Uriyo, 2000). If the school uniform policy is made either mandatory or voluntary in schools, then social pressure is reduced giving more students’ time to concentrate on their academic pursuits. As a result, students are able to establish lasting relationships not based on the type of wardrobe used and economic circumstances paving the way for a more realistic value system (Gunter, 1986 as cited in Padgett, 1998).

Another related theoretical backbone is the pygmalion effect or the self-fulfilling prophecy. This concept describes that an individual’s behavior is in consistency with another’s perceptions whether accurate or inaccurate. Therefore if another person’s expectation is made known to one individual, this individual will behave in a manner consistent to the expectation of the individual (Borkowski, 2005). In relation to this study, perceptions of middle school students may be influenced by individuals comprising the school such as the school administration and the faculty members.

Historically, uniforms have been worn for a variety of circumstances. Nurses wear their sanitary white working attires; athletic teams put on their sport clothes, complete with their team’s logo; and military personnel dress in their combat fatigues and accessories Uniforms may be associated with either positive or negative roles. Uniforms can serve several functions. First, uniforms define group boundaries, promote group goals, and reduce role conflict. Football team members, for example, do not compete against each other, but they work cooperatively to achieve the goal of winning the game.

Second, uniforms can reveal role models. These clothing symbols tell observers that the wearer can be categorized as a student, security guard, or Boy Scout. Third, uniforms legitimize roles in given situations by clarifying membership and role. For instance, persons dressed in fire fighting uniforms would be expected to be firemen who would extinguish fires. Finally, uniforms act as a symbol of group membership. Group members, even if they do not know each other personally, can identify with each other by wearing a similar uniform.

In addition, uniforms represent the organization (Chaterjee, 1999) and establish conformity to organizational goals (LaPointe, Holloman, & Alleyne, 1992 as cited in Rodriguez, 2005). Anecdotal evidence from qualitative studies would suggest approval of principals to the school uniform policy. Take for instance, a principal of Stephen Decatur Middle School, Maryland strongly believed that students will become more behaved during uniform days than on non-uniform days (Viadero, 2005).

A principal of Long Beach Unified School District who became a respondent of Felch (1996) said that the implementation of the school uniform policy reduced the number of fights by half from 1,135 in SY 1993-94 to 554 in SY 1994-95. In addition, a principal from Cherry Hill Elementary School reported to Million (1996) as cited in Nash and Bhattacharya (2009) increased attendance and focus on school activities and lowered suspensions after implementation of the school uniform policy.

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